The Veteran Athlete

veteran athlete

As CrossFit has grown, so has a segment of its population: the veteran athlete.

While you still have newbies showing up, it’s more and more common to have a veteran athlete walk through your doors nowadays. Or, your gym is now seven years old and is made up of mostly veteran members. So, what’s the difference between the new and old athletes?

“The big difference between beginner athletes and veterans is really about self-awareness and willingness to seek help for any weak areas in their fitness,” said Dave Whitson, a co-owner of CrossFit SOAR in Hawthorne, New Jersey.

You know to service the new member by keeping them safe, closely watching their technique and showing them the ropes. But how do you provide great service and new opportunities to those athletes who’ve been with you for a while or are joining and have years of experience?

Reaching Veterans Through Extra Services

One of the biggest ways is by offering extra services. Whitson said if you’ve done a good job as an Affiliate, you’ve earned the veteran’s trust and hopefully their willingness to pay for an extra service. “New people have so much on their plate already just getting started they often are not willing to spend more money than the monthly membership out of the gate,” he said. “The veteran athlete has more knowledge and experience and understands the value of a little extra help.”

There are plenty of options: hybrid memberships that include things like personal training or rowing classes; four to six-week courses that rotate, focusing on different specialties; or individualized programming. It can be geared toward helping a member get a muscle-up, providing them a strength progression or, SOAR’s most popular option, increasing their flexibility/mobility using Active Life protocols.

Over at CrossFit Reform, the team just implemented goal review sessions this year. Owner Eric Conner said it’s been a huge benefit and he hopes to do review sessions every quarter. They sit down with athletes, talking about their achievements and what they want to accomplish next. It’s great for athletes who feel stagnant or stuck. For 20 to 30 minutes they will chat, and Conner will let them know about the things Reform has to offer them as applicable to their goals: hybrid memberships, skills sessions, clarity on goals, etc. “A lot of these people want some of these things; they just don’t know it’s all offered or how to go about it,” he said.

The Key is Building Relationships

By connecting with them individually and building that relationship, you also gain the knowledge of how to motivate them. “Never underestimate what individual interaction and connection can do,” said Conner. 

At CrossFit SOAR, they also offer individualized nutrition, which is another popular option. All these add-ons are on top of membership and can benefit the Coaches as well since they share in these revenue streams. It’s a motivator for Whitson’s staff to become experts in certain areas, as well as to build consistent relationships with members.

While selling might not be your favorite thing — and you have to sell all of the above — Whitson said it’s a fact of life. “Your clients are buying into your services and your staff,” he said. “Giving away everything for free devalues your services and can also put a major strain on your staff since clients will always ask for more beyond the class. If your staff is constantly working for free, it won’t be long before they are tired of being part of your staff. On the client side, if it isn’t paid for, it often isn’t valued or offered.”

And if you aren’t giving your veteran athletes options, you’re missing the reason why you got into this in the first place. “If we are really trying to help people become fitter, offering services beyond a class will help your veteran athletes continue to progress, and it sets a great example for the newer athletes as well,” said Whitson. 

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at